The Hairy Ape

Play by Eugene O'Neill. The story of Yank, a labourer who revels in his status as the strongest stoker on a transatlantic ocean liner. But when Yank is called a 'filthy beast' by the overbred daughter of a steel merchant, he experiences an awakening of consciousness that leads him on a journey through the wealthy neighbourhoods and disenfranchised underbelly of New York society. Searching for a way to belong, Yank is forced to confront primal questions about his true place in the world. This classic expressionist masterpiece presents questions over both class and identity.

1928: London Premiere with George Merritt

1931: West End London Premiere with Paul Robeson

1987: London Revival (German) with Roland Schafer

2012: London Revival with Bill Ward

2015: 1st West End London Revival with Bertie Carvel

The UK Premiere of The Hairy Ape took place on Monday 28 March 1927 at the Little Theatre, Lomax Street, Salford by the Manchester Unnamed Society with a cast that included John Wardle as 'Robert Smith (Yank)', J Edwards Roberts as 'Paddy', G Bernard Smith as 'Long', Suzanne Stone as 'Mildred Douglas', and Beautrix Preston as 'Her Aunt', in a production directed by F Sladen Smith.

Eugene O'Neill's plays seen in London include The Iceman Cometh, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Mourning Becomes Electra, and Long Day's Journey Into Night.


1928: London Premiere with George Merritt

Opened 26 January 1928 (no previews), Closed Saturday 3 March 1928 at the Gate Studios (now demolished)

The cast included George Merritt as 'Robert Smith (Yank)', Henry Scatchard as 'Paddy', Norman Shelley as 'Long', Helena Pickard as 'Mildred Douglas', and Veronica Turleigh as 'Her Aunt'.

Directed by Peter Godfrey.

The Gate Studios, also know as the Gate Theatre Studio, was a private members club located at 16a Villiers Street, under Charing Cross Railway Station. It was demolished in the 1980s when the railyway station was extensively remodelled.


1931: West End London Premiere with Paul Robeson

Opened 11 May 1931 (no previews), Closed 15 May 1931 at the Ambassadors Theatre

The cast included Paul Robeson as 'Robert Smith (Yank)', Lawrence Hanray as 'Long', Sydney Morgan as 'Paddy', Norah Balfour as 'Mildred Douglas', and Mrs. F. Marriott-Watson as 'Her Aunt'.

Directed and designed by James Light.

Unfortunately, a few days after opening, Paul Robeson suffered from severe laryngitis. The performance on Saturday 16 May was cancelled, and although it was hoped that the performance on Monday 18 May would be able to go ahead, it too was cancelled. The producers then announced that the play had closed after five performances, with the last performance being on Friday 15 May 1931.


1987: London Revival (German) with Roland Schafer

Opened 11 May 1987 (no previews), Closed 16 May 1987 at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

Performed in German, in a translation by Peter Stein.

The cast included Roland Schafer as 'Robert Smith (Yank)', Urs Bihler as 'Paddy', Werner Reha as 'Long', Corinna Kirchhoff as 'Mildred Douglas', and Christine Desterlein as 'Her Aunt'.

Directed by Peter Stein, with sets by Lucio Fanti, and costumes by Moidele Bickel.

Performed by the Schaubuhne Company, West Berlin.

This production was presented as the first part of the National Theatre's International 87 season which featured: Stockholm Royal Dramatic Theatre with Ingmar Bergman's revival of William Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Lyttelton Theatre from 10 to 15 June 1987, and Ingmar Bergman's revival of August Strindberg's Miss Julie at the Lyttelton Theatre on 17 and 18 June 1987; Tokyo Ninagawa Company with Yukio Ninagawa's revival of William Shakespeare's Macbeth at the Lyttelton Theatre from 18 to 22 Septetember 1987, and Yukio Ninagawa's revival of Euripides' Medea at the Olivier Theatre from 24 to 26 September 1987; and finally, Moscow Mayakovsky Theatre Company with A A Goncharov's production of Boris Vasilyev's Tomorrow Was War at the Lyttelton Theatre from 28 to 31 October 1987.


2012: London Revival with Bill Ward

Previewed 16 May 2012, Opened 18 May 2012, Closed 9 June 2012 at the Southwark Playhouse

The cast featured Bill Ward as 'Robert Smith (Yank)', Gary Lilburn as 'Paddy', Mark Weinman as 'Long', Emma King as 'Mildred Douglas', Lizzie Roper as 'Her Aunt', James McGregor, Mitchell Mullen, Patrick Myles, and Stephen Bisland.

Directed by Kate Budgen, with designs by Jean Chan.


2015: 1st West End London Revival with Bertie Carvel

Previewed 17 October 2015, Opened 29 October 2015, Closed 21 November 2015 at the Old Vic Theatre

A major revival of Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape in London starring Bertie Carvel

The cast featured Bertie Carvel as 'Robert Smith (Yank)', Steffan Rhodri as 'Paddy', Callum Dixon as 'Long', Rosie Sheehy as 'Mildred Douglas', Buffy Davis as 'Her Aunt', Adam Burton, Ben Lee, Charlie Cameron, Christopher Akrill, Elan James, Luke Murphy, Nicholas Karimi, Okorie Chukwu, Oliver Llewellyn-Jenkins, and Phil Hill.

Directed by Richard Jones, with choreography by Aletta Collins, designs by Stewart Laing, lighting by Mimi Jordan Sherin, and sound by Sarah Angliss.

Callum Dixon's London theatre credits include 'John Leyton' in Paul Jepson's production of Nick Moran's Telstar at the Ambassadors Theatre in 2005; 'Barry' in Max Stafford-Clark's production of Simon Bennett's Drummers at the Ambassadors Theatre in 1999; 'Sweets' in Ian Rickson's production of Jez Butterworth's Mojo at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1996; and 'Norman' in Nicholas Hytner's revival of Alan Bennett's stage adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in 1993.

Richard Jones' London theatre credits include the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods starring Julia McKenzie at the Phoenix Theatre in 1990. Recent revivals of Eugene O'Neill's plays include Long Day's Journey Into Night starring David Suchet at the Apollo Theatre in 2012 and A Moon for the Misbegotten starring Kevin Space at the Old Vic Theatre in 2006.

When this production opened here at the Old Vic Theatre in October 2015, Michael Billington in the Guardian explained that "Eugene OíNeillís 1922 play is a devil to stage. But Richard Jonesís production succeeds by treating the play for what it is: a stunning expressionist spectacle in which images count as much as words..." comcluding that this is "a rare and exhilarating revival of a play that shows the ability of expressionism to pin down theencaged isolation of the eternally oppressed." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail thought that "Eugene O'Neill's imaginative tale could have been highly topical, given the travails of our steel industry... Alas, this production is a mess... When you leave a show suspecting it might have been more interesting simply to read the play, theatre has a problem." Neil Norman in the Daily Express said it was "raw, visceral, primitive yet powerful in its capitalism-versus-workforce argument, it gives a voice to the inarticulate... The overall impact is considerable and its anti- intellectual theatricality delivers a high voltage shock to the system that left me buzzing for days." Ann Treneman in the Times wrote that "it's a puzzle why this production of The Hairy Ape doesn't really work because class politics still do matter and I can see, although I could not feel in my gut, that the actor Bertie Carvel is the embodiment of Yank." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times praised it as being "as contemporary a century on as when it was written." Paul Taylor in the Independent commented that "when Richard Jones is good, he's very very good and when bad, horrid. In this disappointing excursion, he's neither." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard described how "from the opening moments Richard Jones's production is bold, combining raw muscularity with a finesse thatís almost balletic... All of this is achieved with great visual flair. But there are problems with inaudibility."

The Hairy Ape in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 17 October 2015, opened on 29 October 2015, and closed on 21 November 2015.